Facts About Homelessness (Statistics, Causes & Potential Solutions)

Welcome to our article on the facts about homelessness. In this section, we will explore the statistics, causes, and potential solutions to the homelessness crisis in America. Homelessness is a pressing issue that affects individuals and communities across the country, and understanding the facts is a key step towards finding effective solutions.

facts about homelessness

Key Takeaways:

  • 567,715 people were homeless in the U.S. in January 2019.
  • 2.5 million children experience homelessness each year.
  • 40% of homeless school-age children have a mental health problem.
  • More than half of homeless veterans have a mental and/or physical disability.
  • Homelessness could take 20-30 years off a person’s life.

These are just a few of the eye-opening statistics that highlight the scale of homelessness in America. Join us as we delve deeper into the realities of homelessness, the high-risk groups affected, the health impacts, and the global perspective on this pressing issue.

Homelessness in the United States: The Reality

Homelessness is a stark reality in the United States, with countless individuals and families experiencing the devastating effects of not having a safe place to call home. Let’s delve into the pressing issues surrounding homelessness in America.

The Homeless Population

In 2020, approximately 580,466 people were experiencing homelessness in the U.S. This staggering number reflects the urgent need for effective solutions to address the homelessness crisis.

Causes of Homelessness

Several factors contribute to the high rates of homelessness in America. Poverty, lack of affordable housing, and unemployment are primary causes that plunge individuals and families into homelessness. These systemic issues require comprehensive approaches to ensure everyone has access to safe and affordable housing.

Homeless Veterans

Tragically, veterans are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Low income, mental health issues, and the challenges of reintegration into civilian life contribute to this alarming trend. Supporting and advocating for homeless veterans is essential to address their unique needs and provide them with the assistance they deserve.

Domestic Violence and Homelessness

Survivors of domestic violence face a heightened risk of homelessness when seeking to escape abusive environments. Leaving an abusive partner often means leaving behind a stable home, and many individuals find themselves without a safe place to go. Providing resources and support for these survivors is crucial in breaking the cycle of violence and ensuring their safety and well-being.

Homelessness rates fluctuate across different states, emphasizing the need for localized solutions and tailored support. Tackling homelessness requires not only addressing the immediate needs of those currently without homes, but also working towards long-term solutions to prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place.

By confronting the root causes of homelessness, advocating for affordable housing, and providing comprehensive support systems, we can strive to create a society where everyone has a safe and stable place to call home.

High-Risk Groups for Homelessness

Homelessness affects various populations, with certain groups facing a higher risk than others. LGBTQ+ youth and disabled individuals are particularly vulnerable to homelessness due to various risk factors and systemic challenges.

LGBTQ+ Youth and Homelessness

One significant group at risk of homelessness is LGBTQ+ youth. Shockingly, up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. Factors such as family rejection, discrimination, and lack of acceptance contribute to these alarming numbers.

When LGBTQ+ youth experience rejection and hostility from their families, they often lack the necessary support systems and resources to sustain themselves. This loss of familial support can lead to a higher risk of homelessness.

“When LGBTQ+ youth experience rejection and hostility from their families, they often lack the necessary support systems and resources to sustain themselves.”

Additionally, LGBTQ+ individuals may face discrimination in education, employment, and housing, further exacerbating the risk of homelessness. This discrimination, coupled with societal stigma, creates an environment where LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to experience homelessness.

Homelessness among Disabled Individuals

Disabled individuals also face an increased risk of homelessness. According to recent data, there was an 8.5% increase in homelessness among disabled individuals from 2018 to 2019.

Several factors contribute to the higher risk of homelessness among disabled individuals. Limited accessibility to affordable and accessible housing, lack of supportive services, and discrimination in employment opportunities significantly impact their ability to secure stable housing.

Furthermore, disabled individuals may face additional challenges due to their disability, such as increased medical expenses and limited employment prospects. These factors intensify the risk of homelessness, making it crucial to address the unique needs of this population.

Overall, recognizing and addressing the risk factors that contribute to homelessness in LGBTQ+ youth and disabled individuals is essential in developing effective solutions. By providing inclusive and supportive environments, we can aim to reduce the disproportionate rates of homelessness among these vulnerable populations.

Health Impacts of Homelessness

Homelessness has a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being. The lack of stable housing and access to basic necessities takes a toll on the overall health of unhoused individuals. This section explores the various health challenges faced by the homeless population, including mental health issues and substance abuse.

Mental Health and Homelessness

Mental health problems are prevalent among individuals experiencing homelessness. The stress, trauma, and instability associated with homelessness can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and increase the risk of developing new ones. According to studies, approximately one-third of homeless individuals have a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. The absence of appropriate mental health care further compounds these challenges, making it difficult for homeless individuals to receive the support they need.

It is important to note that mental health issues can both contribute to and result from homelessness. Individuals may develop mental health problems as a consequence of their experiences on the streets, including exposure to violence, substance abuse, and isolation.

Substance Abuse and Homelessness

Substance abuse and homelessness often go hand in hand. The circumstances surrounding homelessness, such as the lack of stable housing, unemployment, and social isolation, can increase vulnerability to substance abuse. Substance abuse can serve as a coping mechanism for individuals dealing with the trauma of homelessness. It is estimated that approximately 75% of homeless individuals have a history of substance abuse.

Moreover, substance abuse further exacerbates the health issues faced by the homeless population. Prolonged drug or alcohol dependency can lead to chronic health conditions, infectious diseases, and increased risk of overdose. Lack of access to proper healthcare and addiction treatment services further complicates the situation, making it challenging for homeless individuals to break free from the cycle of substance abuse.

Health Impacts of Homelessness Statistics
Increased rates of illness Unhoused individuals have higher rates of chronic illnesses, infectious diseases, and preventable conditions compared to the general population.
Lower life expectancy Studies have shown that homelessness can reduce a person’s life expectancy by 20 to 30 years.
Mental health challenges Approximately one-third of homeless individuals have a severe mental illness, and the prevalence of mental health issues among the homeless population is significantly higher compared to the general population.
Substance abuse issues About 75% of homeless individuals have a history of substance abuse, which can worsen their overall health and well-being.

It is crucial to acknowledge the complex relationship between homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse. To effectively address the health needs of the homeless population, it is essential to provide comprehensive healthcare services that prioritize early intervention, mental health support, and addiction treatment.

Myths and Misconceptions About Homelessness

Despite the prevalence of homelessness in our society, there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding this issue. These misconceptions often perpetuate stigmatization and dehumanization of the homeless population. It is crucial to dispel these myths and gain a better understanding of the realities of homelessness.

1. Myth: All homeless people are unemployed and lazy.

One common misconception is that homelessness is a result of personal failings or laziness. However, the truth is that many unhoused individuals are already employed or receive government benefits. The working homeless population exists, with individuals who have jobs but still cannot afford housing due to high living costs or insufficient wages.

2. Myth: Homelessness is solely caused by addiction or mental health issues.

While substance abuse and mental health challenges can contribute to homelessness, they are not the sole causes. Homelessness can be the result of a complex interplay of factors, including poverty, lack of affordable housing, family breakdown, unemployment, and systemic inequities. It is important to recognize that personal circumstances are often just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

3. Myth: Homeless individuals are to blame for their situation.

Society often blames and criminalizes the homeless population, further marginalizing them. This blame game disregards the structural issues that contribute to homelessness, such as the lack of affordable housing, inadequate social support systems, and economic inequality. It is essential to adopt a compassionate and empathetic approach that focuses on addressing the root causes rather than blaming individuals.

“The stigma surrounding homelessness perpetuates misconceptions and dehumanization.”

4. Myth: Homelessness is a choice.

Contrary to popular belief, homelessness is often not a choice but a result of circumstances beyond an individual’s control. Many people experiencing homelessness face systemic barriers that deny them access to affordable housing, healthcare, and employment opportunities. It is crucial to shift our perspective and recognize the structural factors that contribute to homelessness.

By dispelling these myths and misconceptions, we can challenge the stigmatization of the homeless population and work towards creating more inclusive and compassionate societies.

Global Homelessness Facts

Homelessness is a global issue that affects millions of people around the world. Understanding the scope of this problem and its underlying causes is crucial in addressing and finding solutions to homelessness. Here are some key global homelessness facts:

Global Homelessness Statistics

An estimated 150 million people are homeless globally, with 1.6 billion lacking adequate housing. These staggering numbers highlight the scale of the problem and the urgent need for action.

Causes of Global Homelessness

The causes of homelessness can vary from country to country. Poverty, lack of affordable housing, and government policies that fail to address housing needs are among the primary factors contributing to homelessness on a global scale.

Homelessness as a Human Rights Issue

Homelessness is not just an economic or social concern; it is a human rights issue. Everyone has the right to adequate housing, as recognized by international human rights standards. Ensuring access to safe and secure housing is essential in upholding the dignity and well-being of individuals.

Homelessness and Urban Housing Challenges

Urban housing challenges pose significant obstacles for millions of households worldwide, exacerbating the issue of homelessness in cities. Substandard housing and unaffordable rental prices force individuals and families to make difficult choices, often leading to unstable living situations or homelessness.

In urban areas, substandard housing refers to dwellings that do not meet basic quality standards, such as inadequate sanitation, poor structural conditions, or overcrowding. Unfortunately, a significant number of households are forced to live in substandard conditions due to the lack of affordable housing options. This situation puts individuals at higher risk of health issues, exacerbates poverty, and perpetuates the cycle of homelessness.

The lack of affordable housing is one of the primary challenges contributing to the homelessness crisis in cities. As property values rise and rental prices soar, low-income individuals and families struggle to secure safe and stable housing. Many are forced to spend a significant portion of their income on housing, leaving little room for other essential expenses and pushing them closer to homelessness.

Furthermore, cities often respond to homelessness with temporary solutions or measures that criminalize being unhoused, without addressing the root causes. These reactive approaches fail to provide long-term solutions and often result in the displacement of individuals, further perpetuating the cycle of homelessness.

“The lack of affordable housing is a major challenge leading to homelessness.”

In order to address the urban housing challenges and effectively combat homelessness, it is crucial for cities to prioritize the development and preservation of affordable housing options. Additionally, comprehensive strategies that focus on homelessness prevention, mental health support, and employment opportunities can help individuals and families regain stability and break free from the cycle of homelessness.

Comparison of Urban Housing Challenges

Challenges Substandard Housing Affordable Housing Shortage Reactive Measures
Definition Dwellings that don’t meet basic quality standards Limited availability of housing options at affordable prices Policies that criminalize homelessness instead of addressing root causes
Impact Health issues, perpetuation of poverty, and homelessness cycle High rental costs, forcing households to spend an excessive portion of income on housing Displacement, limited access to support services
Solutions Investment in infrastructure and improved housing conditions Development of affordable housing units and rental assistance programs Implementing proactive initiatives that address underlying causes of homelessness

Gender and Homelessness

Gender disparities exist within homeless populations, highlighting the unique challenges faced by women. While men make up a significant majority of the homeless population in the United States, women’s experiences of homelessness require specific attention and support.

In the U.S., approximately 70% of homeless individuals are men, according to recent data.

Hawaii has the highest percentage of women experiencing unsheltered homelessness. This alarming statistic underscores the urgent need to address the gender-specific factors contributing to homelessness.

Addressing homelessness among women requires a comprehensive approach that recognizes and responds to their unique circumstances. This includes addressing domestic violence, trauma, and the impact of gender inequality on economic opportunities and housing stability.

Challenges Faced by Women Experiencing Homelessness

Women facing homelessness often encounter distinct challenges that require tailored solutions:

  • Lack of gender-specific services: Many homeless shelters and support services are designed with the needs of men in mind, leaving women without appropriate resources, protection, and privacy.
  • Domestic violence and homelessness: Survivors of domestic violence are at a heightened risk of homelessness when leaving abusive relationships. The lack of affordable housing options and difficulty securing stable employment exacerbate their vulnerability.
  • Healthcare and reproductive needs: Women experiencing homelessness often struggle to access essential healthcare services, including prenatal and postnatal care, reproductive health, and mental health support.
  • Caregiving responsibilities: Homeless women who are mothers face the additional challenges of ensuring the well-being of their children while dealing with the instability of homelessness.
  • Survival sex and exploitation: Some women become involved in survival sex, trading sex for basic necessities, as a means of surviving homelessness. This exposes them to increased risks of sexual exploitation, violence, and criminalization.

To effectively address homelessness among women, it is crucial to develop comprehensive strategies that consider their unique needs and circumstances. This includes expanding affordable housing options, increasing access to gender-specific services, providing trauma-informed care, and promoting economic opportunities.

Homeless Men Homeless Women
Percentage of homeless population in the U.S. 70%
Highest percentage of unsheltered homelessness Hawaii


In order to effectively address homelessness, it is crucial to implement comprehensive solutions and establish a national housing policy. One significant step towards this goal was taken in 2020, when the UN Commission for Social Development passed a resolution on homelessness, acknowledging the need for a multi-faceted response. This recognition at an international level emphasizes the urgency and importance of finding effective solutions to this crisis.

Long-term housing assistance is an essential component of ending homelessness. By providing individuals and families with stable and affordable housing options, we can help them regain their independence and rebuild their lives. Additionally, federal support is vital in ensuring that adequate resources are available to combat homelessness on a large scale, addressing the underlying causes and providing sustainable solutions.

The housing-first approach has proven to be an effective strategy in tackling homelessness. This approach prioritizes providing stable housing as a primary solution, while also addressing the individual’s needs, such as mental health support, addiction treatment, and employment assistance. By addressing the immediate need for housing and then offering comprehensive support, we can create lasting change and improve the well-being of those experiencing homelessness.


What are some interesting facts about homelessness?

Homelessness could take 20-30 years off a person’s life. Lack of affordable housing is a major issue contributing to homelessness.

How many people are homeless in the United States?

In 2020, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. In January 2019, there were 567,715 homeless individuals.

What are the primary causes of homelessness?

Poverty, lack of affordable housing, and unemployment are primary causes of homelessness.

Which groups are at a higher risk of homelessness?

Veterans, survivors of domestic violence, LGBTQ+ youth, and disabled individuals are at a higher risk of homelessness.

What are the health impacts of homelessness?

Homelessness has a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being. Unhoused individuals have higher rates of illness and a lower life expectancy. Mental health issues and substance abuse are common among the homeless population.

What are some myths and misconceptions about homelessness?

Many people believe homelessness is solely caused by addiction or personal failings. In reality, it is often a result of systemic issues such as lack of affordable housing and unemployment. The stigma surrounding homelessness perpetuates misconceptions and dehumanization.

How prevalent is homelessness globally?

An estimated 150 million people are homeless globally, with 1.6 billion lacking adequate housing. Causes of homelessness vary by country and include poverty, lack of affordable housing, and government policies.

What are the challenges of urban housing and homelessness?

Millions of urban households worldwide live in substandard housing or spend a significant portion of their income on housing. Lack of affordable housing is a major challenge leading to homelessness. Cities often respond with measures that criminalize being unhoused, rather than addressing root causes.

How does gender impact homelessness?

70% of homeless individuals in the U.S. are men, while women face unique challenges. Hawaii has the highest percentage of women experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Gender disparities exist in homeless populations and require specific attention and support.

What are effective solutions to ending homelessness?

Ending homelessness requires comprehensive solutions and a national housing policy. Long-term housing assistance, federal support, and housing-first approaches have proved to be effective solutions.

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